The shooting of nineteen innocent people, including two children, at a Mother’s Day celebration in New Orleans yesterday was an act of violence only gaudy enough to hold the nation’s attention momentarily. Shortly after the bodies were cleared, the FBI said they “have no indication the shooting was an act of terrorism. ‘It’s strictly an act of street violence in New Orleans.’” At that, we were free to let our attention drift. In America, all villainy is not created equal.The particular horror some people feel toward Islamic terrorists has always puzzled me. They just don't scare me very much. Or maybe fear isn't the right word for what we feel toward them; Rod Dreher observed that he has many friends who won't go to New Orleans from fear of violence, but they would all to go Boston in a minute. Horror?
A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into radical Islam and become violent. A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into street crime and become violent. A crowd of innocent people attending the Boston marathon are maimed by flying shrapnel from homemade bombs. A crowd of innocent people attending a Mother’s Day celebration in New Orleans are maimed by flying bullets. Two public events. Two terrible tragedies. One act of violence becomes a huge news story, transfixing the media’s attention for months and drawing outraged proclamations from politicians and pundits. Another act of violence is dismissed as the normal way of the world and quickly forgotten.
The news obsession with certain violent acts, especially school shootings, plane crashes, and terrorism, grossly distorts the real risks of life. This would not matter except that it leads to horrific misallocation of resources by our government, which would rather spend $50 million tracking down two terrorists than $50,000 to help the New Orleans police.